Passing on a Passion

By Dave Duwe - December 27, 2015
One man's hobby has turned into a passion to teach children. Al Hutchison, has been teaching kids the art of rod building for the past nine years. Over the course of that time, he has literally taught hundreds of children and some of their parents how to construct their own custom made fishing rod.

As a young boy, Al lived on Rice Lake, in Whitewater, Wisconsin. This is where his love of fishing evolved. His summers were spent fishing by the Rice Lake dam, day and night. He had no money for bait and tackle and found everything he needed to fish from the things that were left behind by people who'd fished there previously, so even growing up he was resourceful in making his own equipment.

His passion for the betterment of children started twenty-five years ago, when he joined the Whitewater Optimist Club. The mission of the Optimists is to provide hope and positive vision, Optimists work to bring out the best in kids. Al's love for the fun of fishing and children founded his rod building project. With the complex electronic age enticing today's youth, his goal is to teach a skill that will last a lifetime.

The classes are two days, the first day you make the fishing rod and the next day it is complete. You start with a bunch of pieces and in the end it is a complete rod. When visiting with Al he showed me a hundred different ways you can make a fishing rod. Your imagination is your only limitation. The hardest part of building a rod is the wrapping of the eyes. The epoxy that coats the rod takes 6-8 hours to cure with constant turning, thus making it a two day process. The turning is accomplished via an electric motor. Many of his rod blanks come from the Wisconsin based company, St. Croix. Only one rod in the nine years he has been giving these classes had to be reworked by him so the child would have a rod to take home. He encourages the parents to join their children in the class. Some of his previous students now help him teach.

It hasn't always been easy for Al to build rods, he explained that the best way to learn is by making mistakes and he has made a lot of them over the years. There is an organization that he joined that took a lot of mistakes out of the equation; it is the Custom Rod Builders Guild. The Custom Rod Builders Guild offers a great deal of information on the nuances of building a better custom fishing pole. No child every has to worry about the cost of building a fishing pole, if their family cannot afford a kit, Al covers the cost out of his own pocket or from the donations he occasionally receives. The old saying, give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, is appropriate when considering Al's classes. All winter long, almost every weekend is spent teaching a class. The classes are run through different civic organizations, such as the Optimists, Lions Clubs and area Boy Scouts. The age of the students is eleven and up.

After the first Saturday in May(opening day of fishing), Al puts the rod building classes on hold , after the fishing season ends he's back at it again. What good is a fishing rod if it's not being used. If you'd like to donate to Al's cause or are interested in learning more about the classes, please contact Al via his email hutcha@idcnet.com.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .